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AJ Hawk Average

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by TOPackerFan, Nov 5, 2007.

  1. TOPackerFan

    TOPackerFan Cheesehead

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    Kind of interesting that this article came out the day he probably had his best game of the year, but I tend to agree with almost everything in it.

    From the Jsonline:

    "Bob McGinn
    E-MAIL

    Kansas City - By midafternoon A.J. Hawk will have completed his first season and a half as the weak-side linebacker for the Green Bay Packers.

    After a week's worth of contemplation, reflection and review, perhaps the best way to size up Hawk 24 games into his career is to label him an average starting linebacker in the National Football League.

    In Green Bay, he's better than Brady Poppinga and worse than Nick Barnett. In Kansas City, he'd be better than Napoleon Harris but worse than Derrick Johnson and Donnie Edwards. And if you were to rank him against the NFL's 104 starting linebackers on opening day, he'd come out somewhere in the middle.

    Hawk's not bad. He represents an upgrade over Paris Lenon, Na'il Diggs and Robert Thomas, the team's weak-side linebackers in 2005 before his arrival. Both Lenon and Diggs continue to start for other teams, and Thomas has played extensively as a backup in Oakland.

    Hawk just isn't a difference-maker.

    Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk hasn't emerged as the playmaker he was in his years at Ohio State. A recent evaluation of his play with Green Bay came in as good, but not great.

    Nate Wayne, the weak-side starter from 2000-'02, made big plays. Brian Williams, the starter at the position before Wayne, made big plays.

    Hawk doesn't make big plays.

    The goal last week was to make a clinical evaluation of Hawk's second season without considering the fact that he was the fifth player selected in the 2006 draft. Clearly, he hasn't measured up to that, but the thought was to let the tape talk, not the emotions of the situation.

    To that end, 150 plays would be watched. The entire Week 2 game against the New York Giants was selected, along with large portions of the Week 3 game against San Diego and the Week 4 game against Minnesota.

    Before going to the tape, a 12-minute interview was conducted with Winston Moss, the team's assistant head coach and linebackers coach. He was asked to break down Hawk in the various aspects of linebacker play and what was expected from him. He apologized once or twice for not being able to reveal more about Hawk's role in the scheme.

    As the footage played out, Hawk came across as a nondescript player who appears to be performing basically the way he has been coached. Almost to a fault, he is processing information before moving. It is taking away some of the naturalness and flow from his game that was so evident during his career at Ohio State.

    Personnel people talk about grading the flashes, and in those 150 plays there was only one snap with a "wow" factor.

    Late in the second quarter, the Vikings had third and 8 at the Green Bay 16. From a 3-2 defense, the Packers blitzed Hawk off the left side.

    Hawk dipped his shoulder against right tackle Ryan Cook and was chipped hard by running back Chester Taylor. As Hawk struggled to regain his balance, Taylor leaked out behind him toward the sideline on a pass route.

    What happened next was amazing. While still engaged with Cook, Hawk pirouetted away upon sensing Taylor's intentions. Not only did Hawk recognize the play, he was able to change direction almost instantly and then accelerated quickly to chase the running back.

    There was no time for Hawk to look back for the ball. He just burst as fast as he could to a point where he figured Taylor would make the catch. The pass was well thrown and would have result in a 10-yard gain, but Hawk made up the ground and was able to smother Taylor after a gain of 4.

    The play was overturned by a penalty on the other side of the field and the Vikings settled for a field goal, but that wasn't the point.

    Rather, on that one play, Hawk performed as well athletically and instinctively as any linebacker could possibly perform. And if you see it once, you know the player has it in him to do it again.

    The rest of the time, Hawk did nothing to pull you up from your seat.

    It's hard to say he did much wrong. In fact, other than a blown assignment on a screen pass last week in Denver, Hawk hasn't been responsible for a gain of 20 yards or more all season. That represents considerable improvement from a year ago, when he was to blame for 7 1/2 such plays, including seven in the passing game.

    But at the same time, the dominance that he regularly showed as a Buckeye has been almost completely missing as a Packer.

    Hawk's work against the run can be divided into plays away from him and plays to him.

    On plays away, Hawk is hanging back to protect against cutbacks. That isn't always the case; when a safety enters the box outside of him, Hawk is much more free to fast-flow to the football. More times than not, however, Hawk has cutback responsibility.

    Meanwhile, Barnett is able to fly toward the ball from his middle linebacker position. He can "run through" if he sees an opening and is unblocked. Otherwise, he hunts the ball a yard or two behind the line.

    The Packers play a 4-3 "over" defense that features the middle linebacker in the run game whereas the 4-3 "under" defense that was coordinated by Ed Donatell featured the weak-side linebacker. Moss confirmed that Barnett has had "a lot more opportunities" to make plays than Hawk.

    Moreover, the Packers' favorite call to shut down the run is a cross-strong blitz in which Poppinga charges in first to clean out interference, Barnett follows to make the tackle and Hawk moves over to cover from behind.

    On plays to him, Hawk is expected to find the football. Moss said the number of plays in which a fullback has tried to make an isolation block on Hawk is smaller than a year ago.

    Hawk played the featured weak-side at Ohio State in an "under" scheme and occasionally he'd shift to the middle and strong side. There were times he'd run clear across two other linebackers to make plays on the other side. He took tight angles to the ball and was a rapid reactor.

    According to Moss, weak-side linebackers in the "Tampa-2" one-gap scheme often can run to the ball. But the Packers ask their defensive tackles to two-gap and their linebackers to play strict gap responsibility.

    "It's not as easy as saying, 'Ball's snapped. Just go run and find the ball,' " Moss said. "We're not built that way."

    On the back side, however, Hawk still has trouble locating the ball. He accepts blockers too easily. He plays on his toes, is prone to false steps and gets bounced a lot. His effort in pursuit is good, not great. His intensity doesn't appear to be what it was in college. His tackling is no better than adequate. And he isn't finishing plays in a violent fashion.

    When action does come his way, Hawk simply isn't attacking the line of scrimmage. He doesn't always take on blocks with the proper shoulder and leverage, and sometimes he will shed a blocker leaving him on the wrong side to make the tackle.

    The Packers have 22 tackles for loss. Hawk, with 3 1/2 last year, has none.

    In coverage, Hawk has been matched against Antonio Gates, Jeremy Shockey and other tight ends on early downs. With his 4.59-second speed for 40 yards, Hawk is able to run with top players. But he certainly isn't accomplished in pass defense.

    Compared with having nine passes defensed and two interceptions as a rookie, Hawk has one and none this season.

    At times, Hawk can be fooled too easily. He has a tendency to drift in zone drops. At other times, his almost bizarre reaction to plays leaves an observer dumbfounded as to what he was thinking or seeing. And he isn't playing quite to his timed speed.

    The Packers are blitzing even less than last season but Hawk probably has blitzed as much as Barnett. He has 2 1/2 "pressures" compared with Barnett's four.

    As a blitzer, Hawk will crash forward and punish the back picking him up. But he doesn't exhibit good timing, seldom gets to an edge or makes an evasive move. He demonstrates little shake-and-bake, snatch-and-jerk or spin. At this point, he's trying to do it mostly on natural talent alone and not getting very far.

    Ten or more scouts and opposing offensive coaches could have been canvassed for their opinion of Hawk. Instead, the decision was made to contact just one personnel director with a long career in the NFL who studied Hawk in college and in the last two seasons.

    "I'm not as impressed with his instincts as I thought I'd be," the executive said. "You see a guy running around and he looks athletic. He just doesn't do anything. There's false steps and bad angles and he's slow to see stuff.

    "You watch the great ones and they're moving as the ball's being snapped. They have a feel where it's going to be and are breaking on the ball. Hawk's real tough but he doesn't have a very good feel.

    "Sometimes it takes a guy awhile for the light to come on. Sometimes it happens. But I think it will be hard for him to ever be great."

    Hawk was the last of 20 linebackers taken with the first five picks of drafts from 1982-'06 but only the second since '96. Eight have made the Pro Bowl, yet almost as many (six) have gone down as busts.

    At this point, he's just about a cross between Junior Seau / Cornelius Bennett at the top end and Brian Bosworth / Mike Junkin at the bottom.

    Ted Thompson saw in Hawk what almost everyone else did. Twenty of 21 personnel men contacted by the Journal Sentinel before the '06 draft had almost nothing negative to say about Hawk.

    Remember, too, that it took Barnett until his fifth season to become such a decisive force who attacked blockers before they could get out on him. Who knows why this has happened, but it's also true that the mere presence of the hyped Hawk inspired the ultra-competitive Barnett to new heights.

    Would Hawk be the reckless, dominating player in the middle for the Packers as he was on the weak side in an "under" defense for the Buckeyes?

    It's a moot point. Barnett isn't going anywhere.

    We do know this about Hawk: He's durable, he's humble, he's committed and he's not going to settle for just being an average starter.

    But, for now at least, that's exactly what he is."
     
  2. spardo62

    spardo62 Cheesehead

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    I think the defensive scheme may be limiting his impact somewhat, it is incumbent on Sanders to figure out a way to showcase his football and athletic skills on a higher level.
     
  3. Cory

    Cory Cheesehead

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    Leroy Butler even said the scheme doesn't allow AJ to showcase his skills. He seals off the edge on run plays to his side to funnel back to the mike linebacker. Tell me which of our Lbers gets consistant pressure on a blitz? I think it's more the scheme than anything. When Hawk had 3.5 sacks last season they said that was the most for a Packer Lber in a number of years. 3.5!??! That's not AJ...that's scheme.
     
  4. Aaronstory

    Aaronstory Cheesehead

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    Whoa, whoa, whoa.

    Way too intelligent and evenhanded of a post. At least throw in a 'he sucks' or something...

    :wink:
     
  5. TOPackerFan

    TOPackerFan Cheesehead

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    I agree that it's scheme to some extent, but I think the comments about him playing on his toes and looking more like he's processing things rather than playing instinctively are spot on.
     
  6. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    Bob Mcginn is such a douche bag. Don't take anything that this jackal spits out as honest journalism.

    Is that better, Aaronstory?
     
  7. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    he's a second year player who is expected to play at pro-bowl level. They talk about quarterbacks taking time to develop, but I'd venture to say that playing LB in the NFL requires as much subtle nuance as QB. give the kid time. He's playing decent while having to process what he is supposed to do. Imagine how he'll play when he learns the system well enough to not have to think about it.
     
  8. Pack93z

    Pack93z You retired too? .... Not me. I'm in my prime

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    Wait here just a second, he is playing the will (weak side) spot already, which by natural alignment should allow him to be free to make mucho tackles and allow his natural playmaking ability to shine.

    When KGB is in the game, I can see how he is getting swallowed up in the frey, since KGB isn't a beast at eating up a block at the LOS. But with Jenkins in the game, and the TE over Poppinga, Hawk should be free to roam all over the place and that last thing that should ever happen is the running plays getting outside of him.

    The assessment that is an average Lber at this point is pretty accurate, he is sound and makes his share of the tackles. But to point to the scheme and say it is holding him back is a scape-goat, IMO. The Wil backer should be the best playmaking spot on the core..

    Now if you are talking about blitz's and etc, I will buy the scheme and play-calling as an hinderence.. otherwise, Hawk needs to pick up his game a little, like yesterday but be consistently at that level, heck even a little more elevated at that point.. play on there side of the Line of scrimmage at times.

    Hawk will be a good backer for many years, he is only in his second year, to me, it looks like he is a little too reactive yet. Thinking a little bit too much instead of just flowing and playing ball.
     
  9. TOPackerFan

    TOPackerFan Cheesehead

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    I think the point is that the #5 pick in a very good draft should be playing better by now than Hawk is at this point. I don't think anyone is saying he'll never be any good, but he's certainly got a long way to go to justify his lofty draft status.
     
  10. spardo62

    spardo62 Cheesehead

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    Sorry, I forgot.
    Hawk sucks, we should have drafted Davis. :D
     
  11. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    i guess i have a different philosophy than you do. I'm happy with his development, and i believe that his draft status is *adequately* reflected. It's not like he's a running back who you can just plug into a game. despite the huge hits, LB is a very subtle position. I think he has a long way to go, but I'm perfectly happy with that. If he was at his peak right now, then i'd be concerned.
     
  12. cheesey

    cheesey Cheesehead

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    I don't know.......I'm not dissapointed in his play. Has he been great? No. Has he sucked? No. I think he will just keep getting better. He's a young kid.......he will just get better. Barnett has improved each year, Hawk will too.
     
  13. Cory

    Cory Cheesehead

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    23 out of 32 teams last year had MLB lead their teams in tackles. Hawk was one of the 7 that led his team in tackles from the will. Two teams had safeties lead their teams. Being the Will especially in this scheme doesn't guarantee "mucho" tackles. This scheme funnels everything to the mike linebacker. If this were the Tampa 2 THEN Hawk would have much more oppurtunity to make big plays. Watch Hawk during a run play to his side. He immidiately goes wide and takes on the blocker to force the runner back to the middle.
     
  14. Pack93z

    Pack93z You retired too? .... Not me. I'm in my prime

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    Shouldn't a MLB lead the team in tackles? Yes they should..

    That is what brought some of the expectations up a little for Hawk.. is as a young player playing the wil spot.. he had the instincts to lead the team in tackles with Nick right behind.

    By alignment alone.. the Wil is basically uncovered in almost every set.. unless it is a two tightend scheme or a TE comming in motion.. so Cover 2 to not..the wil should have a step or two unscathed to digest the play and make a jump on the ball. It is a natural playmaking spot on a defense.

    Again, not saying Hawk isn't playing good ball.. yes he is forcing most plays back inside.. but that is what he should be doing.. but how many times this year has he beaten the block and made a play beyond it?

    He is young and will improve, again to me he isn't playing ahead of the play.. reading it and beating it out. Like he is thinking before just blowing a play up.
     
  15. brennan1884

    brennan1884 Cheesehead

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    He doesnt play the middel,,,,,, he plays the edge and I think he does a solid job, hes in his second year in the league....hell mature as a player very much in the next couple of seasons, its interesting thazt writers will always be negative in rain or shine..
     
  16. Pack93z

    Pack93z You retired too? .... Not me. I'm in my prime

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    He is from OSU.. he needs a little extra time to develop :razz:

    If he would have played at Madtown.. he would be alworld already. :lol:
     
  17. Cory

    Cory Cheesehead

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    I understand what you are saying. However, I don't know that anyone thought Hawk had the "instincts to leave Nick behind" but rather be a great pair up with Nick. If he is funneling most plays to Nick in the first I would expect Nick to be the leader in tackles. He's fast, agile, strong, and instinctive. The packers scheme doesn't feature the will. I mean doesn't it say something that they are willing to leave him in instead of another D back in wide out sets? Coaches have a lot of faith in him and that isn't because he's a top 5 pick. It's because he's a good player that is getting better.
     
  18. Packnic

    Packnic Cheesehead

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    Average this.

    [​IMG]
     
  19. IronMan

    IronMan Cheesehead

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    8) Nice! AJ is on pace to have just about the same numbers he had last year. He's solid.
     
  20. Cory

    Cory Cheesehead

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    I also don't think an average backer makes two great pass breakups against one of the greatest TE's of all time.
     
  21. brennan1884

    brennan1884 Cheesehead

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    damn thats a nice picture......go AJ :)
     
  22. Pack93z

    Pack93z You retired too? .... Not me. I'm in my prime

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    Yes it does speak volumes.. he is a smart player, no doubt. Maybe I should word it a little different.. he is still a developing player that is playing decent ball right now. We have no one on the roster that can outplay him nor has a bigger upside. In other words, we haven't seen the best ball this kid can play yet... those days are still comming.
     
  23. Cory

    Cory Cheesehead

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    Haha I agree, my friend. He has big upside and is not playing to his potential just yet. I just don't think he's "average" either. I take average as "replaceable" and I don't think there are many will's in this league I would want over AJ. That being said GO PACK!!! 7-1 BABY!
     
  24. Pack93z

    Pack93z You retired too? .... Not me. I'm in my prime

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    100% agree that there are few are far between that you would chose over for the long haul.. but he isn't in the top 5 Wils either right at this moment.. not even close.
     
  25. Cory

    Cory Cheesehead

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    If he isn't I'd say scheme has something to do with that right now because I sincerely believe in this scheme that guys like Brooks and Simms would be nobodies.
     

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